Spinal fusion surgery is an option for individuals with degenerative disc disease or a herniated disc. Spinal fusion may also be an appropriate treatment if you’ve suffered a significant accident and the result is back pain and nerve damage. This article will help you understand more about spinal fusion surgery so that you can make informed decisions about your own care.
Spinal fusion surgery involves grafting together two or more vertebrae to prevent movement between them. It is commonly performed on patients who suffer from chronic back pain due to a herniated disc or may have experienced nerve damage after an accident that compromised their ability to walk properly
What Makes Up the Lower Back?
It is difficult to fully understand a lumbar spinal fusion without briefly discussing the normal anatomy of the spine. The vertebral or spinal column consists of 33 bones called vertebrae stacked on the other for their spine. The crest, which extends from the base of the skull to the pelvis, has four regions: the cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, and sacrum. Between each vertebra are the flat and circular plates of cartilage called the intervertebral discs. Intervertebral discs maintain the integrity and continuity of the spine by holding one vertebra to the next. It is an adequate cushion that absorbs shock and pressure placed by the everyday movements of the back. This disc also makes bending and head rotations possible.
The lumbar area of the spine extends from the lumbar curve to the sacrum. This is the only region of the spinal column that supports the entire body’s weight. Five vertebrae in this region are the thickest and most robust. Because this spine region bears the most weight, the lumbar vertebrae connect to voluminous stabilizing muscles in the lower back, including lumbar erector spinae, psoas, and quadratus lumborum. Because this region subjects itself to the most work and stress, it is most susceptible to injuries and structural changes.
How Common is Spinal Fusion Surgery?
More than 300,000 spinal fusion operations are performed annually in the United States (Pakzaban, 2009). The majority of these procedures are for degenerative spinal problems. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (2009) reports that over 325,000 spinal fusions were practiced in 2003. Of those, 162,000 involved the lumbar region, and the lumbar fusion rate more than doubled from 1996 to 2001, specifically for patients aged 60 and over.
In Ontario, Canada, 6128 patients over 50 underwent spinal surgery for degenerative lumbar disease between 1995 and 2001, according to Bederman et al. (2008). Among 1928 patients who underwent lumbar fusion, there were 4200 patients undergo spinal decompression. Although there were more decompression surgeries than fusions, they performed more than decompressions during this period. The procedure was reoperated in 10.4% of patients within two years after the process; therefore, it indicates that lumbar fusions were increasing in Ontario. However, the rates were lower than those documented in the United States.
The above was part 2 of a spinal fusion and exercise series.
Part 1 – What is Spinal Fusion?
Click here: What Exercises to do For a Cervical Fusion and Disc Herniations?